The 38 ‘hacked’ petrol bowsers populating the Customs House forecourt at Circular Quay are an art exhibit mounted by Nissan to help the public get to know its coming Leaf plug-in sedan.
Former Rogue Traders lead singer – and more recently dance show host -- Nathalie Bassingthwaighte opened the installation to the applause of fans. Standing in orderly ranks around a fountain constructed of old petrol hoses and nozzles, the bowsers have each been turned to other uses.
One now fills helium balloons, others dispense bubbles, coffee, gumballs or red cordial, house a living fishtank or emit bird song – although the RSPCA will be happy to know the birds inside are not real. The public can vote for their favourite bowser, and one voter will win each of the 38.
Artist James Dive – part of creative collective The Glue Society -- was commissioned by Nissan to develop the artworks. Dive is better known for works in Miami Pulse and New York Pulse contemporary art fairs, and Sculpture by the Sea in Sydney and Denmark. However there’s always been a strong conceptual approach in his unusual work. Pieces have included a full-sized house that rained on the inside, called I Wish You Hadn’t Asked; and a melting ice cream truck for Sculpture by the Sea.
However this is the first time he’s worked with bowsers, he said. “We sourced them in a depot that seems to be where the old bowsers go – a bowser graveyard,” Dive says. “It was quite a process taking out the insides, and a challenge building some of the new functions into them. The hardest was the popcorn maker which kept churning out fresh popcorn all day.
“Nissan gave me a clear brief, but freedom to create anything I wanted and they then related each of those works to a particular aspect of the Leaf electric plug-in car.”
Bassingthwaighte will be among the first to own a Leaf in Australia, and says she sees the car as “the first realistic and positive step forward in finding an alternative to petrol”. “However not enough people realise that (the Nissan Leaf) is here and that they’re as good if not better than petrol cars,” she says. Bassingthwaighte believes the Leaf would suit the majority of Australian drivers, citing Nissan’s data that 80 per cent of us drive less than 80km per day.
“Electric cars can now do 170km on a single charge. For anyone interested in the latest innovation and finding an alternative for our kids’ future, this is the ultimate set of wheels,” she says. The installation will be displayed in Sydney until the weekend, and then heads to Melbourne for a stint in Federation Square on May 22-23. The Nissan Leaf arrives in June, with its launch coinciding with that of the documentary about the electric car’s global fight for acceptance, ‘The Revenge Of The Electric Car’.